Black Interests

I Remember Patrick Murphy: He Saved Black Lives In DC by Harold Bell

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During the 1968 riots the Public Safety Director was a man by the name of Patrick V. Murphy. Mayor Walter Washington the city’s first black Mayor hired him as the Director of the DC Police and Fire Departments.

Mr. Murphy after moving up through the ranks of the New York City Police Department, he became recognized as a leader among law enforcement officials seeking ways to deter the violence and racial unrest that simmered just below the surface of American life in the 1960s.

He was a reform-minded law enforcement official who hailed from New York City. He was nationally known for trying to defuse tensions between police and inner-city residents. He shaped and supervised the District’s efforts to deal with the historic rioting of 1968.

Mr. Murphy was recognized as a champion of restraint. In particular, he tried to minimize the use of force and trained officers to respect the rights and dignity of the poor and the voiceless.

Mr. Murphy came to Washington in 1965 as a Justice Department official before being appointed the District’s first director of public safety in 1967. In 1967 I became a Roving Leader for Department of Recreation & Parks as a Youth Gang Task Force member. Mr. Murphy quickly brought the Roving Leaders into the department and made us Community Partners.

Eager for improvement in the interaction between citizens and government, Mr. Murphy became an advocate of what later became known as community policing.
He greatly increased the recruiting and promotion of members of minority groups in the police and fire departments.

When all hell broke loose on April 4, 1968 our Prince of Peace the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, we were ready thanks to Mr. Murphy.  My co-worker Willie Wood of the NFL Green Bay Packers and me were standing on the corner of 9th U Streets NW on a bright sunshiny day. Someone in a car drove by and yelled “Harold Bell they just shot and killed Dr. King in Memphis, Tennessee.”

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